The red and white pill: Audio Vitamins plugs you in12 July 2016
Rob Speight finds out whether Audio Vitamins has the right prescription for plug-in fever
People take supplements convinced that ingesting a wide range of vitamins and minerals will benefit their body by making it work better. So why not apply the same principle to plug-ins?
Self-professed audio ‘jack-of-all-trades’ David Clissold (pictured) is the man asking that question. He has worked in areas including live sound, film and studio work, but immediately prior to setting up his new company, Audio Vitamins, he was an audio engineer on a cruise ship. Clissold’s voyage has taken him to many ports and his time at sea obviously got him thinking.
While working on a project in August 2015, Clissold realised he could really use a plug-in that would allow him to listen to the effect of various compressors on a track in a way that didn’t distract from him actually listening to the audio: “I had a hunt around thinking, we have been using computers for music for ten to twenty years now there must be something out there that will do what I want,” he says. Finally, Clissold stumbled on Slate Media Technology’s Batch Commander, which allows users to execute up to 1000 commands in Pro Tools by just using one button.
Clissold continues: “I tried using Batch Commander and I was all over it at one point. I loved it and I still use it quite a bit. But it didn’t give me the functions that I wanted. So, I went into the scripting side and developed a bunch of Apple scripts that did what I wanted. But then I thought, lets develop a plug-in and make it available for everyone.”
After a meeting with a developer, Audio Vitamins presented its first offering ofplug-in goodness in mid-May in the form of Contra (pictured). The software allows the user to compare up to eight different plug-ins across a one to 32-bar looped selection of a session. The plug-ins are then cycle through one after the other on each repetition of the loop without needing any further interaction from the engineer.
Shortly after the initial release of Contra, Audio Vitamins also released a cut down free version, which allows for four comparisons across a one to two bar selection. “I didn’t really want to release a time limited demo. I’m quite fortunate that being a professional in the industry I do get to give time limited demos a good test. However, if I am a home user I might get to use it once or twice in a 14-day demo period and I decided that if I really wanted to get the product out there 14 days isn’t long enough,” Clissold says.
Following the successful launch of Contra the company added MSg to its line up which, unlike eating monosodium glutamate does not give you heart palpitations and nausea, but instead allows you to run any existing plug-in in Mid/Side mode. The software allows for full control of level and wet dry mix on both channels across the input and output. The combined settings of the existing plug-ins can then be saved as presets for use and recalled in mixes.
Although the Mid/Side technique is well known, and was initially employed during recording, more software companies such as Izotope and Brainworx, are incorporating the technique in their processing products, although some are aimed more squarely at mastering rather than mixing.
Clissold is not standing still; Audio Vitamins will be employing new members of staff and has plans for another eight plug-ins over the next year to 18 months. “Winter NAMM next year will hopefully be a big one for us and we can launch around four products there,” he enthuses.
One of the products the company is hoping to launch at the event will be a plug-in that allows the engineer to use multi-band compression, but each of those bands can be assigned to an existing compressor in the users arsenal. In addition, the user will have control of the frequency ranges, crossovers and blending between the three, all within the Audio Vitamins product.
“What I am trying to do is not reinvent the wheel in anyway,” Clissold says. “There are hundreds of compressors out there, so the question I am asking is how can we put together a series of plug-ins that will help the user cut their time?”
Ultimately, this makes Audio Vitamins a “facilitator of processes”, perhaps, a label Clissold agrees with. “I think this is going to be the core of the business, at least initially, but ultimately it will probably make up around fifty percent of what we do. I really see this as our niche a little bit. There are so many compressors out there, why am I going to go and compete with Waves and the like when I can give users different ways of using what already exists. We’re basically helping people get better mixes in a shorter amount of time,” Clissold says.
Will Audio Vitamins be the magic little pill to stop engineers getting lost in the sea of similar seeming processing? Only time, a glass of water and swallowing the red and white one will tell. Now where’s that rabbit hole?